race report by Ambarish Vaidya
A Game of Mind and Body
Yes, I enjoyed every second of the Ironman race. Before I give the race report, here is what happened during training:
A) Training started around January 2019 and we built blocks systematically … For a full marathon runner like me, 6 days of workouts (1 Group run workout, 1 long run, 1 bike, 2 swim and 1 brick workout) was actually irritating. But coach Atul Godbole had plans. He was slowly building my endurance for all 3 sports.
B) Swim: I think I am a decent swimmer. So the coach unlike few others gave me workout starting 1200 meters. I didn’t improve my pace much, but frankly I was always interested to enjoy swim workout and used it as meditation.
C) Bike: I never enjoyed bike workouts except my last 90km practice ride post my accident and then the actual Ironman race. A car dashing into me from behind on the highway just 4 weeks before the race was confidence shattering, but I could gather myself and also the bike (changed both wheels and the handle) within 4 days and practiced 90K to gain my confidence back. I actually used the Bavdhan police chowky as my transition during brick workouts. Thankful to PSI Sir 🙏🏻
D) Run: I ran the Hyderabad full marathon in late August, so run workouts were reduced drastically post Hyderabad race. During my Hyderabad training, cycling and brick were minimal.
E) Coach Atul gave all Motiv8 Tri-team 5 (Five) triathlon practice sessions of distances/time less than actual race distance. This I believe was a game changer and as a result the entire Motiv8 Tri-team succeeded well. I feel the group workouts make a lot of difference
Now, here is the actual race day:
1. Expo and mandatory athlete briefing: Though the Race Director toned strict on rules, I realized that he was talking common sense and all Ironman rules are meant for our safety only. Expo was okay. Ironman Merchandise on sale were surely low quality stuff.
2. Swim: You hear lot of noises and opinions about roughness of the sea, drifting, currents, high waves, etc prior to the race. I however enjoyed the sea swim. I surrendered to sea and respected it’s form as is. Remember Ironman race organizers can’t put life of 700 participants at risk. So no need to fear about sea. Free style stroke helped to save energy, but I feel swimming in the sea is more like forward trading due to current in the water. Finally it is all about whether you can swim 2km at stretch without getting tired. I did swim workouts of 2km at least 20 times during training.
3. Transition 1: Yes, I took a long 11 minutes, but no regrets. I allowed my body and mind to settle and gear up for next sport. I saw 2 bikers crash in first 3km riding at high speed. I guess they suddenly jerked on the bike without settling breath and body.
4. Bike: The 90km route was made up of 3 loops of 30km each. I was riding by feel all of 90km. The first 60km, I was riding at 28.5 kmph, which later was dropped down to 26.9 due to heat etc. I saw one cyclist falling down at water station while exchanging water bottles without stopping cycle. This was madness. Saw several bikers fixing flats en route. Although I was lucky to ride without puncture, coach Atul took 3 bike repair sessions and hence I was equipped to handle it if the time came.
5. Transition 2: Again I took a leisurely 6 minutes to settle down. I removed all bike accessories and then went on the run.
6. 21km run : The run was split as 7km x 3 loops. For the first time, I enjoyed loops in the run. I used run walk easy strategy to finish without cramps. I even sprinted the last K at 5 pace to finish strong !
Here are my key takeaways and conclusions from Ironman Race:
1. Ironman is all about your endurance skills. Mentally as well as physically.
2. The Ironman race expects us to be calm throughout to get best out of you.
3. Swim is grossly over feared. People like me will keep scaring (confidently without entering sea water sometimes) about roughness of sea, jelly fish bites etc. But in reality jelly fish bites are not shark fish bites. Human can never conquer sea, hence roughness level doesn’t matter to us in the race!! It is our mind that matters most in the swim.
4. Bike: Saw at least 8 cyclists crashing on the road. Coach Atul always warned us that we should be conservative on the bike. Agreed with him totally after race. 90km is a long distance and time. I also think that one needs to take care of bike before race, check tires and tubes, get it serviced. I am pretty confident that those who got bike punctured were using bad tube/tires.
5. Effort wise I feel Ironman Race is 80% Efforts compared to running full marathon at aerobic pace. I believe full marathoners know endurance well and are expected to perform definitely well in Ironman race.
6. Structured training given by coach Atul paired with our sincere attempt to complete all workouts is easy key to race success. I missed only 4 workouts (2 due to cycle repair and 2 due to fatigue) in total out of about 230 workouts in 10 months. I trusted him blindly and did not participate in any noise around.
I am thankful to Coach Atul Godbole for nurturing a triathlon culture at Motiv8 and building our endurance block by block since the past 10 months.